Saturday 8 September 2012

A fossil Bird from the Eocene of Guangdong Province China.

Birds, on the whole, do not have a good fossil record, as they tend to be small, have delicate skeletons, and do not typically live in environments with good preservational potential. As a rule birds will not enter the fossil record unless they are rapidly buried anoxic sediments, which is tricky as such sediments are typically only found under water, and dead birds tend to float.

In a paper published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica on 25 June 2012, Min Wang, Jiangyong Zhang and Zhonghe Zhou of the Key Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Gerald Mayr of the Sektion Ornithologie at Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg describe a new species of Bird from a single leg found in the black oil shales of the Middle Eocene Huayong Formation of the Sanshui Basin in Guangdong Province, southern China.

 The new specimen is named Sanshuiornis zhangi, where Sanshuiornis means 'bird from Sanshui' and zhangi honours Xianqiu Zhang, a local geologist, who discovered the locality. the species is described from the reasonably intact bones of a single right leg. The limb resembles that of a Ciconid Bird (Heron or Bittern) but after careful examination of the limb, Wang et al. did not feel able to place the limb precisely within the Ciconiidae with any confidence, and instead choose to place it within a larger grouping that includes the Ciconiidae, as well as the Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills) and the Phoenicopteridae (Flamingos).

Photograph (top) and interpretive line drawing (bottom) of Sanshuiornis zhangi. Wang et al. (2012).

See also Fossil Owls from the La Brea Tar Pits, Was Archaeopteryx black? A new fossil bird from the Palaeocene of Brazil, How did raptors use their claws? (and did it help them learn to fly?) and Birds on Sciency Thoughts YouTube.

Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.